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Challenges of Building Height Differences

Most firemen are familiar with the concept that buildings may be of different heights in the rear than in the front – for example the 2 story house that is 3 stories in the rear because of the walk out basement.  This is an important operational issue.  It can effect what floor firefighters think they are operating on.  Confusion about this and miscommunication can lead to hoseline placement or ventilation in the wrong spot.  Many of us have only thought about this situation in terms of the building that is taller in the REAR and shorter in the FRONT.  But what about the opposite?  A fire the other night highlighted some of these challenges…

A “triple-local” (3E, 1T, BFC) were dispatched to investigate a report of smoke in the area.  The first in truck found heavy smoke coming from the 1st floor of a 3 story middle-of-the-row building.  The first floor was a church and it appeared that apartments/offices were the upper two floors.  Exposure’s B and D were both attached 2 story rowhouses (residential).  The box alarm was filled and as the 2nd due truck’s barman (forcible entry FF) my job was to insure that access was available for the 2nd due engine to access the basement from side C.  On the way to the fire I had heard the first engine report fire on the first floor of a church.  Coming down the rear alley I observed a decent amount of smoke coming up the stairwell (about 10 steps) to the basement.  From side C it was 2 stories and all looked like residential rowhouses to me.  After donning my mask and forcing the door, I made my way into what I believed was the basement.  Smoke was to the floor.  I assumed I was in the basement and with that level of smoke that there must be fire in the basement.  Then I encountered the officer from the 1st in engine who was looking for the basement.  We had some miscommunication because I thought we were IN the basement, which he was still looking for.  So now we had to search around and make sure that there wasn’t a basement, so we could verify that the fire had not come from below.

It took a few minutes to establish that we were both on the first floor.  What I had descended 10 steps to access from side C had been entered via the street-level on side A – we were all on the first floor, but from the rear it appeared to be the basement.  The B & D exposures were both 2 story row’s that sat up on grassy hills.  For the fire building, the grassy hill had been dug out and a full extra story built in. 

Nothing bad happened, so I apologize if this is all anti-climatic.  But it highlighted an important point – height discrepancies can be on either side.  Most of the time it seems like the rear is taller than the front, but in this case it was the opposite.  Had the fire not been more serious, this miscommunication could have resulted in some operational hiccups at least, or much worse…

Get out in your area and look at your buildings.  When, like this fire, you encounter something unique – SHARE IT.   If you find yourself in a similar situation, make sure that the reality of the situation is CLEARLY RELAYED TO ALL COMPANIES ON THE FIREGROUND.  And a great job to those on the box, good stop.

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Posted by | Posted in Blog, Combat Ready, Commentary, Company News, Engine Company, fire-rescue-topics, firefighter-safety-health, firefighting-operations, fires, Tips & Skills, training-development, training-fire-rescue-topics | Posted on 15-12-2010

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Registration Open for Officer Development School: Green Ridge, PA – Nov 13 & 14, 2010

Traditions Training is excited to announce that registration is now open for our “Officer Development School”, to be held November 13 & 14 at the Green Ridge Fire Company in Aston, PA. Learn real-world leadership and street-smart tactics featuring experienced officers from the Kentland VFD, FDNY, and Fairfax County Fire Department.

Click here to download the flyer!

Featuring hands-on participation with various leadership challenges and tactical scenarios, this program will have you interacting with leaders of other departments and challenging your decision-making as you examine and improve your personal leadership style.

To insure individual attention and participation, enrollment is limited.  Register today! To register, please e-mail info@traditionstraining.com with the following information:

  • Attendee’s Name.
  • Attendee’s E-mail.
  • Attendee’s Department Affiliation & Rank.
  • Whether paying individually or through department purchase order.

**Please note that due to fixed costs, registration is non-refundable after 10/13/10.

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Posted by | Posted in administration-leadership, Blog, Combat Ready, command-leadership, Company News, fire-rescue-topics, firefighter-safety-health, firefighting-operations, news, training-development, training-fire-rescue-topics | Posted on 20-09-2010

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"I Never Heard a Trash Man Scream…" – Staying Cool & Collected on the Radio

My trash gets picked up on Tuesdays and Fridays.  Like fires, it’s a little variable – sometimes they come early, sometimes late.  Sometimes I have a big load, sometimes little, occasionally I throw them off with recyclables.  After a birthday get-together this past week I had a particularly large pile of trash.  A big job for the fellas!  I was sure they’d be excited… However I was dismayed when the trash truck rounded the corner and none of the trashmen were yelling:  “big pile!  we gotta job!  we’re gonna need more gloves!  get the crusher ready!  HE’S GOT CARDBOARD BOXES!!!!” They’re trashmen.  They expect to pick up trash.  We’re firefighters, we should expect to go to fires.

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Posted by | Posted in administration-leadership, Blog, Combat Ready, command-leadership, Commentary, fire-rescue-topics, firefighting-operations, fires, Incident Command, news, rescues, technology-communications, Tips & Skills, training-development, training-fire-rescue-topics, videos | Posted on 12-07-2010

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Rings, Tags, Clips & Velcro…

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Accountability hardware systems:  TAGS, RINGS, CLIPS, VESTS, BOARDS, VELCRO, PAPER LISTS, MAGNETS, COMPUTER CHIPS… they come in all shapes and sizes, limited usually only by your budget.  Your department can use a pre-made “canned one”…off the fire-salesman’s shelf, copy and adapt one that works for department nearby or dream up your own….but in reality….

The “HARDWARE” part of an accountability system is rather immaterial. (more…)

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Posted by | Posted in administration-leadership, Blog, Combat Ready, command-leadership, firefighter-safety-health, firefighting-operations, Incident Command, RIT / Survival, technology-communications | Posted on 14-02-2010

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What channel is this?

There are times you DEFINITELY need to be on the right channel...

The right channel is important...

Last week, Danny Doyle brought up some good tips about radio familiarity.  One thing we need to be able to do is know what channel we are on and change it if needed. This could become necessary during a MAYDAY where non-RIT units are moved to an alternate channel, or if you’re on the wrong channel somehow.

So how do you know you’re on the right channel?  Follow the jump for a video of some helpful technology and some discussion on finding the right channel…

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Posted by | Posted in Blog, Combat Ready, Tips & Skills | Posted on 15-10-2009

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Quick Drill: How Well Do You Know Your Radio?

How well do you know your radio?

Emergency buttons, channels, sounds, lights, knobs & buttons, and batteries.  Depending on the particular make or model, all of these features can be a pain to operate with firefighting gloves on. Radio Lets face it, sometimes its complicated with bare hands!

Your radio is an important tool in fireground communications and sometimes contributes to, well lets call it “over communicating”.  In all seriousness, when things go bad it is a key survival tool!

When you need to call a MAYDAY the radio will play a huge part in the rescue process.

I’m not telling you anything we don’t already know but….

  1. Can you change the channels in zero visibility?
  2. Does your radio make certain sounds when channels and banks are changed or battery level is low?
  3. Is the transmit button easily pushed with gloves on?

Again, depending on the brand of radio we could point out different things all day long.  Some jurisdictions even have the same radio with different characteristics/modes/banks activated.

I encourage you to drill in low visibility, randomly during drills,  while hanging around the firehouse, or just throw someone under the bus to prove a point!  Its just a little something that most take for granted.  There are no secrets, we only get better with practice!

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Posted by | Posted in Blog, Combat Ready, RIT / Survival, Tips & Skills | Posted on 06-10-2009